Catalan / Canadian singer-songwriter Gabriel Kazz shares his personal experience of mental health with new single Keep It Together.
Raised in a household of classical guitarists, Kazz’s musicality and craftsmanship shines through the delicately-balanced arrangements, knack for storytelling and rich, intuitive vocals.
I had a chat to Gabriel to find out more about the story behind the song and what he’s got planned for the rest of the year…
Hi Gabriel! Congratulations on your new single Keep It Together. What inspired you to write the song?
Hi Annie, thank you very much!
I wrote most of Keep It Together almost two years ago in London, during the recording of my first EP, Helium. There were some disagreements between myself and one of the members of my band at the time, and I started writing this song as a call for us to keep calm and not let small matters interfere with the bigger picture.
However, in the process of writing the song and after I started playing it live and seeing people’s reactions, it became about much more than that. Especially since that year (2017) right after releasing my music a lot of bad stuff happened to me, in a short period of time. I ended a tumultuous relationship, I had family issues, my dog died, and if that wasn’t enough, the label put together by some friends that I was a part of fell apart. I was also in my last year of my Music Degree at LCCM and I had a lot of coursework.
All of that was a bit much to deal with, and I started having a lot of anxiety and bouts of depression. I am still dealing with it today (although I am much better now). I recorded the song about a year ago today, but I couldn’t bring myself to release any more music. I was too terrified of what would happen if I did. It’s crazy. This song became what I was trying to do with my life. Get back up and try again. Get back up and try again. Keep It Together. Keep It Together.
I went home (Barcelona) for the Christmas holidays this year and with the encouragement of family and friends, I finally found the strength to do it. So I finished the song, and finally started planning the release, and now it’s out. Keep It Together is a message to myself. And releasing it [is] making a statement: I am trying again, and I’m proud of myself for it. That’s all that matters.
I hope it can help others who are going through a tough time in their lives find their strength to try again, whatever that means for them.
Where did you record it?
I recorded it in the studios at LCCM (London College of Creative Media) where I was attending university.
I see you were brought up in a musical household. Can you tell me about about when you first started making your own music and your influences / inspiration?
My mother and father are professional classical guitarists and teachers. My dad is from Barcelona and my mother is from Toronto, Canada. They met at a guitar competition in Cuba! They used to have a Classical Guitar Duo called Duo Kassner-Quer, which was absolutely amazing (you should listen to them on Spotify!) and I spent my infancy listening to them play.
When it wasn’t [them playing] together, it was my dad in his studio upstairs playing scales every morning of all eternity. My grandfather from my mother’s side was Eli Kassner, who died last summer. He was the founder of the Guitar Faculty of the University of Toronto and a widely acclaimed guitar teacher. So yes. A very musical family indeed!
As soon as I could say guitar, I had one in my hands, and started receiving lessons from my parents. My mother is into all kinds of music and she opened my ears to rock and roll and folk music. She would play Bert Jansch and Martin Carthy in the car, as well as David Bowie and Gary Numan. She showed me The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton (the first rock ‘n’ roll song I learned to play from my mother was Sunshine of Your Love). I fell in love with Manu Chao when I was 10 and I remember a summer roadtrip where I only had Proxima Estacion Esperanza on cassette and I listened to it 24/7. I was a huge fan of Linkin Park too.
I started writing my own songs when I was around 13-14. I joined my first band in my hometown when I was 16 (a ska and reggae cover band called Millor Que Res, Catalan for ‘Better Than Nothing’) and we started playing lots of shows. It quickly became an originals band, and we gained some following in our region before disbanding after 3 years. After we broke up, I kept on writing and recording my own music, and started to find my own sound – more influenced by rock, folk, indie and alternative. Artists like Ben Harper, Bon Iver, John Mayer, John Butler, Neil Young, Dave Matthews or Jack Johnson and bands like the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Incubus, Nirvana and Soundgarden heavily influenced my sound.
I love music that makes you feel and process complex feelings… not just happy or sad, but the many shades of emotion there are in between. I’ve always been drawn to beautiful vocal harmonies and they’ve become a characteristic of my music. Keep It Together is not so heavy on them, though! Only in the bridge section. But I like the simplicity of the arrangement and I think it works in favour of the song.
Can we see you play live any time soon?
I am throwing a secret intimate release gig for my special fans next Saturday 23rd of March. Email me at email@example.com if you would like to come!
My next venue gig is on the 19th of May at The Gladstone Arms in Borough, with Bark Presents.
If you could collaborate with anyone in the world, who would it be and why?
So many of them are dead… it would’ve been Chris Cornell, Chester Bennington, Kurt Cobain, Shannon Hoon (lead singer of Blind Melon), John Lennon…
Let me see… on the side of the living, I’d love to collaborate with Ben Harper, Becca Stevens’, Neil Young, David Crosby, John Butler and Dave Matthews… I can’t choose one of them!
If I absolutely had to it would probably be Ben Harper & the Innocent Criminals, because I love his guitar and pedal steel playing and his music, and I resonate heavily with his lyrics. The Innocent Criminals are absolutely killer. I saw him live with them in Bilbao and he was incredible.
What’s coming up next for you? Is there more music on the way?
This is a time of finishing songs and putting them out there. I have lots of songs that I want the world to hear, but I am a perfectionist and for a long time that’s got in the way of finishing them or releasing them.
With Keep It Together, I’ve overcome my fears a little bit and it’s the first step, the first stone set loose from the wall. I will be releasing some more singles for sure this year!